There’s hardly a sport I won't at least try, and my epically mediocre abilities don't often hold me back. But a few months ago, something did hold me back: a blown ACL. And when it happened, it was the only thing standing between me and one seriously cool fitness opportunity. I'm still kind of resentful about this.|
Our local roller derby group, the Charm City Roller Girls, was wrapping up its regular season and was getting ready to hold tryouts for the next one. They were offering what I consider one of the greatest programs I've seen in a long time: Charm School, a 10-week roller derby boot camp. It covered skating basics, fitness, league rules and more. The full session cost $100 per participant, and successful participants could score an invitation to join the CCRG.
If you've never actually watched roller derby, I can tell you this much. It's fast, it's rough and it really doesn't take any prisoners. It's a fun spectator sport and I imagine it's just as fun to participate in. The rules are available on the website of the national governing body, the Women's Flat Track Derby Association.
WFTDA has 150 full member leagues and 87 apprentice leagues. Each league may offer multiple teams that compete, or bout, with one another. One interesting thing to note is that members of teams (which have names like Smashinistas and Female Trouble) skate under assumed names like Winnie The Shrew and Colleene Oscopy.
I was all kinds of ready to try this. I even had the perfect skater name picked out: Hot Flash. (It’s an age thing.) Unfortunately, my knee had other plans, and Hot Flash turned into Ice Pack.
But I still got to attend an informational session for the group, and I was impressed by the large number of women who showed up. Women of all ages, from college students, all the way up to professionals in suits carrying briefcases, and 30-somethings pushing babies in strollers. Women of all shapes, from those who looked like they worked out every day to those who, well, didn't.
Some brought their own skates. Some were willing to use the skates provided by the rink (the Roller Girls referred to these as the Mental Rentals). Many were astonished it was the old-fashioned quad skates, and not the inline type, that were used. All seemed excited and happy about the prospect of being in roller derby.
"I just want to try," said one woman. "I haven't skated since I had a party at the roller rink when I was 10. If I don't make it, well, I'll still be in better shape than I am now, and it'll be something to talk about."
These were women who were drawn in by a sport ideal for those who like to color outside of the lines. Admittedly, not everyone wants to do something where helmets, pads and a bite block are required, and where useful skills include the ability to knock someone down and then leap over their prone body. Something else slightly off-putting: Online retailers sell beginner-specific safety equipment, and these are known in the trade as “fresh meat” packages.
Both the CCRG website, as well as those for other leagues, recommend lots of rink time, and lots of cross-training for beginners. Some offer recommendations for gym routines, and some are advocates of outdoor exercise. But all are in favor of a well-balanced fitness plan, since tryouts include tests of endurance, speed and more.
Unfortunately, it wasn't long after learning all this that my roller derby potential came to a screeching stop, and my post-op life started. But I looked on the CCRG site the other day, and my eyes went straight to the photo of one of the skaters. Despite the fact that she was baring her teeth, I recognized her. She has a new name now. Not as awesome as Hot Flash, but still cool. And I'm betting that these days, she skates a lot more aggressively than she did at her 10th birthday party.